Industry body for mobile operators, the GSMA, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are accelerating the use of mobile money in times of global emergencies, including pandemics and natural disasters.
The organisations, funded by the UK Department for International Development since 2017, are delivering digital assistance through cash-based transfers to save lives.
In a statement, they say the partnership aims to use mobile technology to deliver impactful assistance by working with regulatory authorities and local mobile network operators in key countries.
The partners will focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the digital cash transfer process, starting in Nigeria and expanding to other countries.
With the project, the GSMA will support the WFP to access mobile money industry initiatives.
It says: “First, the GSMA Mobile Money Certification initiative, which ensures a provider’s ability to deliver safe, secure and reliable services while protecting the rights of consumers. The certification will enable WFP to fast-track due diligence on mobile money providers for the disbursement of cash-based assistance digitally to those affected by crises.
“Second, the Mobile Money API, a GSMA-led industry initiative which provides a harmonised specification to access mobile money services across multiple providers and markets, making it simple and secure to integrate for assistance seamlessly.”
As the effects of COVID-19 continue to spread, global remittances slumped 20%, resulting in calls to service providers and authorities to introduce measures to ease use of digital and mobile money platforms.
Both the WFP and GSMA believe digital inclusion, digital identity and integrated payment frameworks are critical to the success of any cash transfer initiative via mobile money services.
John Giusti, chief regulatory officer at GSMA, says: "As humanitarian crises become more frequent, complex and protracted, the need to devise services that are scalable, replicable and efficient for humanitarian organisations has become crucial.
“With over one billion mobile money accounts worldwide, the use of digital technology – specifically mobile money services – can provide the foundation for rapidly scaling cash transfers to safely and effectively deploy desperately-needed resources. Moreover, in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, mobile-based cash transfers can deliver support, while adhering to social distancing advice.
"The GSMA and WFP call on other humanitarian organisations to consider the use of mobile technology in their strategies. Well-tested mobile services, such as mobile money, allow for the safe delivery of support, particularly in fragile environments."
Commenting on the project, Enrica Porcari, WFP CIO and director of technology, and chairperson of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), says: "I am delighted that five years into our relationship, the GSMA is expanding its work with the WFP and ETC, which we lead. This will scale up mobile money use for humanitarian assistance through WFP’s cash-based transfer and beneficiary services management platform, SCOPE. It will have an enduring impact on all those facing food insecurity."